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When a couple with children divorces or separates, their top priority should be the best interests of their children. Recognizing that it’s crucial for children to develop meaningful relationships and maintain strong bonds with each parent, California courts prefer shared custody whenever possible. Also referred to as “50/50” custody, these types of custodial arrangements allow parents to have an equal amount of parenting time.
To gain a better understanding of how custody rights work, it’s essential to be aware that custody comes in two parts. Legal custody gives parents the ability to make critical decisions in the child’s life, such as those involving education, religion, and healthcare. Physical custody refers to where the child lives and who cares for their daily needs.
There are several different custody arrangements, including sole custody, joint custody, and 50/50 custody. When legal custody is “sole,” only one parent has the authority to make decisions about the child’s upbringing. In cases involving sole physical custody, the parent with whom the child lives is called the “custodial parent” and the other is referred to as the “non-custodial parent.” The non-custodial parent typically has visitation rights.
Although joint custody means parental responsibilities are shared, it doesn’t always mean that they are split equally. When parents have joint legal custody, it means they both participate in decision-making. But even in a joint physical custody arrangement, one parent will typically spend more time with the child than the other and have the role of primary caretaker.
Most judges consider 50/50 custody to be an ideal arrangement as it can help to ensure both parents partake in raising their child. With 50/50 shared custody, both parents have an equal right to make major decisions that will impact their child’s life. In these types of custody arrangements, the child spends an equal amount of time with each parent. Parties can choose a 50/50 custody arrangement by entering into an agreement reached outside of court or a judge can order it in appropriate situations.
Critically, 50/50 custody requires a significant amount of cooperation between the parents. Parents must be able to put aside their differences and work together to ensure their child’s best interests are met. Not only do they need to communicate about custody exchanges, but they must coordinate their schedules. 50/50 custody arrangements work best when parents are amicable and live in the same general area.
Parents might consider a few different scheduling options in 50/50 custody cases. For instance, with an alternating every two days schedule, each parent has the child for two days. This type of schedule can allow the child to spend substantial time with each parent during the week, as well as on the weekends. In addition, both parents share responsibility for transporting the child to and from school and their extracurricular activities.
Another common schedule in 50/50 custody cases is the 2-2-3 schedule. This means that a child will have two days with one parent, followed by two days with the other, and then they will spend three days with the first parent. The schedule switches the following week. Although this custody schedule has a more predictable rotation than one that alternates every two days, it can still be difficult for a child to settle into a routine when they are changing homes several times a week.
When it comes to custody determinations, a court will consider the best interests of the child first and foremost. Unfortunately, pure 50/50 custody is not very common — due to logistics, it is often difficult to equally divide the time both parents spend with their child. Work and school schedules can sometimes make it easier for one parent to have the children during the week, and the other parent on the weekend. In such cases, it may be necessary to implement another form of shared custody, such as 70/30 or 60/40.
In calculating 50/50 custody, the court will divide custody by the number of overnights, which means both parents must receive 182.5 overnights with the child. However, that half day alone makes pure 50/50 custody nearly impossible. Things can become even more complicated when you factor in holidays and birthdays. These dates will need to be alternated between parents in a 50/50 custody arrangement, which can mean one parent will miss out on an important moment.
The closer both parents live to each other, the easier it is to obtain 50/50 custody. This is because it would be easier for the child to switch houses every few days. But if the custody agreement would be too disruptive, it may be best to implement a schedule in which the child alternates between homes every week or two.
Cases in which the parents and children have complicated schedules may require even more nuanced custody schemes. The court will heavily analyze the specific details of sharing custody in each case to ensure the best interests of the child are met. If one parent lives too far from the child’s school, a judge may elect for split custody time instead, such as 60/40.
Child custody can be complex and it’s critical to have a knowledgeable family law attorney on your side who can help ensure your legal rights are protected and the best interests of your child are met. Offering skillful representation, The Law Offices of Rick D. Banks has been helping clients in Fresno facing child custody issues achieve favorable outcomes in their cases for more than 20 years. To schedule a no obligation consultation, call (559) 222-4891.